We love to hang out right where politics meets personal pettiness. After apparently out-right rejecting the aid pledged by the G7 over the weekend, Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro has said he’ll take the $20 million USD if French President Emmanuel Macron apologizes and “withdraws his insults” from last week. Macron maintains that the Brazilian president is “mistaken” in his interpretation of the comments.
The beef between the Brazilian and French leaders began last week when Macron said that the “international crisis” of raging wildfires in the Amazon rainforest needed to be on the agenda at the G7 Summit over the weekend (for which he was president this year). The G7 consists of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the U.K. and the U.S., so Bolsonaro took the inclusion of the wildfires on the agenda without the presence of Brazil as an attack on Brazilian sovereignty.
The Amazon rainforest (often called “the lungs of the planet”) is 6.7 million square kilometers and while the majority of it is in Brazil, it also covers land in eight other nations including Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia, Guyana, Suriname and French Guiana. Macron has questioned Bolsonaro’s commitment to the environment and preservation of the land and said over the weekend that while he understands the escalating problem to be mostly in Brazil, it should be a world issue.
“We respect your sovereignty. It’s your country,” Macron said Tuesday. “But we cannot allow you to destroy everything.”
THIS IS PERSONAL
As the dire situation in the Amazon progressed, so did the animosity between Macron and Bolsonaro. After the French president added the wildfires to the G7 agenda, Bolsonaro escalated their political differences to personal ones. CNN reports that someone posted a derogatory meme comparing Macron’s wife, Brigitte, to Bolsonaro’s wife, Michelle, on the Brazilian president’s Facebook page. Bolsonaro’s official account then commented, “Don’t humiliate the guy … haha,” (translated by CNN) in reference to Macron.
The French prez didn’t take kindly to the misogynistic and unnecessarily personal attack, as you might imagine. He called the comment “incredibly disrespectful” and went on to imply that Bolsonaro shouldn’t be president.
“What can I tell you? It’s sad,” he told reporters. “But it’s sad first and foremost for him and the Brazilians… I think Brazilian women are probably ashamed to read this from their president… since I have a lot of respect for the Brazilian people I hope they soon have a president who will live up to their expectations.”
“It’s sad first and foremost for him and the Brazilians.”
— Bloomberg TicToc (@tictoc) August 26, 2019
WHAT ABOUT THOSE AMAZON FUNDS?
On Monday, Bolsonaro’s Chief of Staff initially said that the country would not accept the $20 million USD ($26.7 million CAD) offered by the G7. It wasn’t clear if they would also be rejecting the $15 million CAD and $15.9 million CAD respectively that Canada and the U.K. had also pledged separately. Tuesday, Bolsonaro walked back the out-right rejection, but added the caveat that he wanted Macron to apologize for his comments about him before he would accept the aid.
“First of all, Macron has to withdraw his insults. He called me a liar,” Bolsonaro said. “Before we talk or accept anything from France … he must withdraw these words then we can talk… First he withdraws, then offers [aid], then I will answer.”
Macron has said Bolsonaro is “mistaken” in assuming that the G7 countries were trying to undermine Brazilian sovereignty with the offer of aid, but hasn’t made any indication he will offer a public apology.
THE DEVELOPING AMAZON SITUATION
The devastation in the Amazon rainforest has not been overstated by social media. Brazil has reported a sharp uptick in forest fires this year with over 74,000 separate fires spotted in 2019 (up 84 per cent from this time last year). There’s some confusion and suspicion around why exactly the normally damp forest is burning at such an increased rate—environmentalists have accused farmers and loggers of setting the blazes to clear land which activists attribute to Bolsonaro’s weakening of environmental laws. Bolsonaro himself blames NGOs for setting the fires but provided no evidence. Limited rainfall (which is normal for the area at this time of year) is exacerbating the situation.
The most recent reporting on the wildfires is that even if they can be contained soon, the damage incurred already could send the ecosystem into a “spiral of collapse” resulting in even more deforestation. Scientists warn that losing a significant portion of the Amazon could have irreversible global impacts on the world’s climate, most significantly on atmospheric carbon levels. In layman’s terms: the planet’s lungs would go from sucking carbon out of the atmosphere and producing oxygen to just releasing a bunch of carbon. That means lower air quality and more greenhouse gases, as if our climate change situation wasn’t already dire enough.